Cyberdiary: Hyena cubs vs. a prickly opponent – 31 October 2012

Porcupine - Nick Du Plessis

Porcupine - Nick Du Plessis

Yesterday evening, a group of guests headed down to the ever-consistent hyena den at F-Bend Open Area. At the moment there are three young cubs living at the den, which can be viewed on a regular basis. The den is situated in the southern most part of the property, and is an area less often frequented by vehicles.

‘The south’ has an uncanny knack of producing once-in-a-lifetime sightings. Amazing sightings that have been viewed in that area in the recent past include the den site of the Cape Hunting Dogs, the Selati pride that took down a full sized kudu bull and who will forget when the Jakkalsdraai female leopard attempted to bring down two impala rams at the same time!

Yesterday’s event was no different, and once the Land Rover rounded the corner and arrived at the den of the hyenas, we realised that we were going to get more than what we had bargained for. The three young hyenas were perched on the large rock which forms the cave in which they live. There was an unexpected visitor at the den too. A porcupine was moving about the rock! These large rodents are difficult enough to find, and to see one in these circumstances was extraordinary. The prickly visitor was no doubt an object of massive interest for the young hyena cubs. The chances are quite high that they would have never seen one of these creatures before, and they were set on finding out exactly what it was. The cubs moved around the intruder with plenty of caution. When one of the cubs got too close, it was quick to move away and they did well to avoid the dangerous quills that could easily penetrate their skins.

Chances are that these hyena cubs have never seen a porcupine before - Nick Du Plessis blog

There's a good chance that these hyena cubs have never seen a porcupine before - Nick Du Plessis

One of the youngsters jumps back after getting too close to the dangerous quills - Nick Du Plessis blog

One of the youngsters jumps back after getting too close to the dangerous quills - Nick Du Plessis

The cubs had reason to be curious when an intruder arrived at their den - Nick Du Plessis

The cubs had reason to be curious when an intruder arrived at their den - Nick Du Plessis

The porcupine was never too concerned about the extra attention - Nick Du Plessis

The porcupine was never too concerned about the extra attention - Nick Du Plessis

The stand-off between the hyena and the porcupine - Nick Du Plessis

The stand-off between the hyena and the porcupine - Nick Du Plessis

The porcupine was hardly bothered by the hyenas, as they continued to prance around as it foraged. It was interesting that the porcupine had made its way to the den. These rodents will regularly practise osteophagia, which is the process of chewing bones. This is to satisfy the high calcium required to maintain the condition of their spiny quills, and their continuously growing incisor teeth. Bones are plentiful at the den site, and are scattered about which may have been the attraction for the porcupine. Furthermore, the dung produced by hyenas is also very high in calcium from all the bones that they eat and are able to digest. It is also a possibility that this porcupine was after the hyena feaces, but we are unsure whether this has been documented.

Being late at night, it was difficult to photograph, but ranger Nick Du Plessis managed to get some shots of the event.

The MalaMala Ranger Team.

PLEASE NOTE: Animals on MalaMala are named after their territories. This means that a) only the predators have been given names and b) we only know the animals according to the names we have given them, as they are based on the territories within MalaMala’s boundaries.

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